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Expenses Record Keeping: Cars and Travel

Tuesday 2 July 2019

Different rules can apply to how records must be kept depending on what type of expenses you are claiming for. 

Car expenses

The type of car expense records you need to keep depends on whether you use the cents per kilometre method or logbook method to record the expenses.

Method 1: Cents per kilometre

You don’t need receipts, but you need to be able to show how you worked out your business kilometres (for example, by producing diary records of your work-related trips).

If you use the cents per kilometre method, your claim is based on a set rate (68c per kilometre from 1 July 2018) for each business kilometre travelled. You can claim a maximum of 5,000 kilometres per car.

Method 2: Logbook

Your claim must be based on the percentage of work use of your car. To work this out you need to keep a logbook. Your logbook is valid for five years, but you can start a new one at any time. Your logbook must:

  • cover a minimum continuous period of 12 weeks and be broadly representative of your travel throughout the year
  • include the purpose of every journey, odometer reading at the start and end of each journey and total kilometres travelled during the period
  • include odometer readings at the start and end of each income year.

You can claim fuel and oil costs based on your actual receipts, or you can estimate the expenses based on odometer readings from the start and the end of the period in which you used the car during the year.

You must keep:

  • original receipts for all other expenses for the car
  • details of how you calculated your claim for decline in value for your car, including the effective life and the method used.

If your claim relates to the transport of bulky tools and equipment, you will need:

  • a record of all work items carried
  • the weight and size of all work items
  • evidence that the items carried are essential to your work
  • evidence that your employer provided no secure storage at the workplace.

Note: If you borrowed a car or used a vehicle other than a car (for example, a motor cycle or a vehicle with a carrying capacity over one tonne, such as a utility truck or panel van) you cannot claim your expenses using either of the two methods.

Instead, you need to keep all your receipts (such as fuel and repairs), and claim the work-related portion of these costs as a travel expense, not a car expense. Also remember to include on your tax return any allowances that you receive from your employer for car expenses.

Travel expenses

There are specific record keeping requirements for travel expenses, depending on:

  • whether your travel allowance is shown on your payment summary
  • whether your travel was domestic or overseas
  • the length of your travel and your occupation.

Travel records you should keep include:

  • a travel diary or itinerary, if your travel was for six nights or more
  • receipts for all meals, airfares, accommodation, car parking and tolls
  • an explanation of how the travel was work related, the number of nights you slept away from home and the location.

If your travel allowance is shown on your payment summary and you want to make a claim against it, you must have written evidence for the whole amount, not just the excess over the reasonable amount.

Note: Reasonable amounts for accommodation, meals and incidentals are provided to make record keeping simpler, not to provide an automatic deduction – you can only claim the amount you spent.

Although you may not need records, you will still need to be able to explain how you calculated your claim.

Expenses Record Keeping:  Cars and Travel Back